Friday, 2 May 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 18

IDW MLP comic issue 18, cover A
Surely the line ran "There can be only one"?
After being utterly tortured by IDW, who for some absurd reason thought we should be made to wait six weeks after issue #17 came out, we have finally reached issue #18 (you astound me, Holmes) of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic main series comics. When we last saw our favourite ponies, the shadowy face of King Sombra had just appeared in the interdimensional mirror. What happened next? Andy Price, Katie Cook and Heather Breckel can tell you – but as none of them are around right now, I'll have to do it.

In all honesty, I don't have a great deal to say about this month's issue. Not because it was bad – far from it – but simply because it followed on so well from its predecessor. As many readers had speculated last time, the Celestia we know so well had indeed gone into the mirror world to see a romantic interest... who turned out to be Sombra. In that world, however, he's a good and wise ruler. I'm sure this semi-canon shipping will cause a few howls, but I'm willing to see where it goes.

I will get one little quibble out of the way here: the stained glass windows showing the Elements are, of course, different in Mirrorworld. The Flim Flam Brothers are Fairness, an alicorn Trixie is Humility... and Derpy is Wisdom. I think that's a bit of a slight on the canon Derpy, who may be clumsy and a bit silly, but is surely not stupid. It's the one thing in this month's issue that I really take issue with. On the plus side, Love is represented by none other than Chrysalis; I'd really like to see her good version show up!

The ponies in prison (temporarily)
Is there some legal requirement for castle jails to be insecure?
As you'd expect from this creative team, the comic looks lovely: the aforementioned mirror-hall scene spreads across a full double page and there's also a startling, psychedelic panel when the six ("seven!") heroes go through the portal in the first place. The sculpture garden outside the castle is an unsettling place, with Discord named as "Our Hero" and poor old Bon Bon's statue having lost its head entirely. And sorry, Royal Guards: you do indeed have silly hats.

The reference count seems to be very slightly subdued by Price's standards, which may simply reflect all the effort he's having to put in to the main part of the narrative. The graffiti on the dungeon wall ("Attica!") is quite amusing and there's a quick reprise for Spike and Angel in their vaudeville getup. Oh, and continuing a theme that seems to run through a surprising amount of MLP-related stuff (ever since "A Dog and Pony Show") there's a line from David Bowie to finish off this issue.

Naturally, there are plenty of smiles to be had. Rainbow Dash continues to become increasingly frustrated by Pinkie Pie's habit of pulling stuff out of nowhere (cakes, dictionaries...) but it's Pinkie who points out how the ponies can get out of jail. She can be very smart sometimes ("Scary, isn't it?" as Applejack quite rightly says.) Interestingly, given the popular fanon that Fluttershy likes romance novels, it was she rather than Rarity who seemed smitten when Good King Sombra looked out greeted the band.

The Mane Six (and Spike) go through the mirror portal
Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Sombra Fields
Let's face it, though, once we knew roughly what was going on, we were all waiting for the villains: the Evil Princesses. They didn't disappoint, either, with Luna taking her badness up to 11 by being red and black, something lampshaded by Rarity (of course). The idea that hurting them will also harm the Good Princesses in "our" Equestria is not a particularly original one, but it serves the plot well enough. It's a shame that the final "reveal" is the one all of us assumed from the outset, but still.

As with the last issue, there's also a sepia-toned backup story by Cook, and once again it's about Star Swirl's hat! Overall, though issue #18 felt a little bit more predictable than last month's outing, and there's a sense (as with the previous two-of-four issues) that the really juicy stuff will kick off next time. It's absolutely beautiful to look at, thanks in no small part to Breckel's eye-catching colours, maybe some of her best work for Pony. Absolutely recommended, but a tiny notch down on issue #17.

Yays
  • Art, writing and colouring are all excellent
  • Good King Sombra seems more interesting than I'd feared 
  • Those alternative Mane Six(?) windows: alicorn Trixie?!
  • Lampshading Pinkiespace never gets old
  • Red and black alicorns are now (comically) canonically cliché
Neighs
  • The very slight feel that the story is taking a slight breather
  • The alt-universe Derpy doesn't seem quite to fit
8.5/10

2 comments:

  1. I also felt jarred at alt!Derpy's "element". Also, unlike the other three, Derpy has never been an antagonist in the main universe, so it's difficult to think of an obvious all-defining negative trait that can be reversed. Perhaps grace? Poise?

    At least this means that Derpy is a nice pony in both worlds!

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    Replies
    1. Hmm... good question re Derpy's trait. I can't really think of anything better than your suggestions; "grace" might have done pretty well, actually. And very good point at the end!

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